Monthly Archives: April 2014

INESCAPABLE by Nancy Mehl ~ a much overdue review

Inescapable

I’ve been remiss. I meant to read and review this wonderful novel long ago. I can only plead a towering “to read list” that is quite unmanageable. Finally, I’ve gotten to it and I’m so glad I read this one.

 

Elizabeth Lynn “Lizzie” Engel grew up in Kingdom, Kansas, an Old Order Mennonite community hidden away in a remote rural area. She became pregnant as a teen and her stern and unbending father, an elder in the church, planted a seed of shame in her. The youth who was the father of her baby was promptly whisked away by his parents and Lizzie didn’t know what had become of him. Not able to take any more condemnation, Lizzie ran away with her baby to Kansas City.

Fast forward, five years later. Lizzie is about to lose her job at a women’s shelter as she’s been accused of stealing money. There’s also someone stalking her and sending her threatening notes. Afraid her young daughter, Charity Lynn, will be taken from her if she’s arrested, Lizzie flees, quite reluctantly, back to her home town. When she gets there she finds her father is as unforgiving as he had always been. So, she takes a job as a waitress in the local diner where she and Charity are allowed to live in rooms above the eatery.

Charity asks why her father never came back to the village of Kingdom looking for her. So, once settled in the village, both mother and young daughter have to face the same issue. Both have the same question. Does my daddy love me?

I’m used to being faced with a body at the start of a murder mystery, but in this story the murder takes place well into the story. I didn’t find that to be a problem as it’s seamlessly woven into the plotline.

Lizzie’s character is crafted in such a way that I felt as if I actually new her. A number of secondary characters came vividly to life as well. The author describes Mennonite traditions, apparel, the scenery of rural Kansas, as well ferocious winter storms in such detail the reader can clearly picture them. Yet, meticulously depicting all of these elements doesn’t negatively impact the pace of the novel.

I hate to call this a bonnet book, as it doesn’t resemble in any way the usual Lancaster, PA type of romance story. There is tension between the religious Mennonite community and the outside world, with church elders doing what they can to keep outsiders out, or at least their influence. This is to be expected. There is also a mini-revolt within the church itself: legalism vs. grace. Several of the more strident members of the church come off as slightly deranged, yet they are depicted in such a way as to allow the reader to see their humanity, as well as some of their past hurts.

A sweet romance begins to bud. Noah, a young elder in the church who is part of the contingent who believes in God’s grace, has loved Lizzie since childhood and is finally not too shy to say so. Just as this is taking off, the author throws a curve ball into the mix. That curve ball itself turns out not to be what it at first seems to be This is a story that can be enjoyed by readers from 12 to 112.

Purchase Links:

Amazon/Kindle: http://amzn.to/1j04ot0

Barnes & Noble/Nook: http://amzn.to/1j04ot0

 

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The Easter Table: in my Sanctuary Point Whodunit Series

Let’s take a time-travel trip back to the 1940s to the fictitious village in my historical whodunit novel series: Sanctuary Point. The village is located on the south shore of Long Island. The original setters of Long Island were the Dutch, some German and French settled later, followed by the English, then the Irish and the Scots. Last came the great migrations from eastern and southern Europe after the two world wars.

Mrs. Brogna (heroine Erica Brogna’s mother in BURNING HEARTS) and Mrs. Lenart (heroine Katrina Lenart’s mother in GOODBYE NOEL) are best of friends and neither is a novice in the kitchen. They both hail from Czechoslovakia and both are ardent Christians who are faithful to their little church in Sanctuary Point. Mrs. Lenart plays the piano during worship.

Czech Wooden Easter egg. The design is inlaid.

Czech Wooden Easter egg. The design is inlaid.

 

The Czechs call the Wednesday before Easter Ugly Wednesday because traditionally it is the day Judas betrayed Jesus. In past generations, all Easter baking had to be done by the Tuesday of Easter week. Intense house cleaning begins on Wednesday which is a hold over from the ritual cleaning of Passover. Easter eggs are decorated on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Holy Thursday or Green Thursday to the Czechs and Moravians is the day Jesus ate the Last Supper with His disciples. This is a strict fast day when only vegetables can be eaten.

Good Friday in Czech traditions is the most solemn day on the calendar. In Czechoslovakia before the communist takeover, it was a day of prayer and fasting. The Czech Good Friday meal would be meatless, as it is in most European countries.

Easter Saturday is known as White Saturday in Czech tradition. It is the day new Christians are baptized in white robes.

As it is in the entire Christendom, Easter is the most important and the most triumphant feast day in the church Czech calendar. In the early days, red was the only color used to dye and decorate Czech Easter eggs, symbolizing the blood of Jesus. On Easter Sunday, Czech people greet each other by saying, “Christ is risen.” The response would be, “Indeed He is risen.” The Czech Easter table holds whatever the family likes best and features roast lamb, pork, or duck, and for those who hunt, roast rabbit. Many tables display a variety of smoked meats and sausage. Traditionally vegetables include braised red cabbage. There would be salads, hard boiled eggs, Easter breads and cakes with a cross cut into them. And of course strudel.

Roast Leg of LambIn PERILOUS SHADOWS, heroine and pioneer newswoman Kiera Devane wouldn’t know her way around a kitchen if her life depended on it. So, hero and ace radio broadcaster, Argus Nye, would most likely take her to the fabled Garden City Hotel for Easter dinner. In the novel, this is where he proposed to her. A 1940s restaurant Easter meal might consist of: a champagne or sparking cider toast, a crudite dish of celery stalks and carrot slices, oysters on the half-shell,  roast leg of lamb with roasted potatoes, buttered asparagus, tossed green salad, and praline sponge cake.

Lucinda Walsh, heroine in DARKEST HOUR, and her grandparents Nellie and Daniel Walsh, consider, as all Irish do, Easter to be the most important day in the Christian calendar. In their household, preparation for Easter starts at the beginning of Lent. The house has to be thoroughly cleaned. Many Irish refrain from eating any red meat for the entire forty days of Lent. This does not include Sundays, which are a feast day. They also refrain from indulging in a personal indulgence, such as alcohol, smoking, a favorite food, and the like. The Irish see the forty days of Lent as a time of self discipline.

The Irish take Good Friday very seriously. If they are in good health, many will fast for the entire day. Or at the very least will eat only a bite or two and take only a few sips of water. They remain in prayer from noon until three in the afternoon, the time Jesus hung on the cross.

The Eve of Holy Saturday is a vigil time for the Irish. A time of personal prayer and reflection.

Step Shoes

 

In Irish households, Easter is a time to break out and celebrate. This is the day to be decked out in new clothes. Each family has a feast of roast lamb or mutton, potatoes, stuffing,  and leeks, and the like. Easter eggs and chocolate eggs are given to children. This is a time for Irish step dancing.

 


Celebrate National Library Week ~ April 13-19

Library, PublicI recall visiting the public library quite a bit with my dad, and sometimes also with my mom. My dad was an English teacher, the school debate coach, and he also directed the senior play. He loved libraries, did a lot of research in them, and I loved to tag along.

 

This is National Library Week (April 13th – 19th) a time when we recognize the huge contribution libraries have made to the American culture.

Links:

American Library Association (ALA): http://www.ala.org/conferencesevents/celebrationweeks/natlibraryweek

ALA National Library Week Fact Sheet: http://www.ala.org/news/mediapresscenter/factsheets/nationallibraryweek

***Leave a comment about your fav experience(s) in a library. 🙂

 


Springtime Brings To My Mind ~ Beauty Without Cruelty

My big baby Roscoe

My big baby Roscoe

As we go into spring, I begin focusing on birds chirping away and I think of little bunnies frolicking merrily in the field. I think of puppies and kittens about to be born.

One of the distinguishing features in many of my novels is the presence of beloved pets. GOODBYE NOEL has Blanka, PERILOUS SHADOWS has Aggie. My new whodunit, HARMFUL INTENT, to come out at the end of the month, has Henry and Rascal.

Titania, from a Shakespearean comedy

Titania, from a Shakespearean comedy

 

Before I ever seriously put words together in a scene intending them to be published, I was an animal rescuer. Not long after I got saved, I met a gal through church friends who ran a rescue organization. And I joined up with her to rescue dogs and cats in Brooklyn. I even had a mini-selter in my basement with a four-by four-by four-foot cage for a large breed dog or two smaller breed canines, and three large cat cages. Lillian’s organization rescued hundreds of animals and I personally rescued about fifty. I trapped them, even chased a few down alleys. That was twenty-five years ago. Most of them got adopted, but my husband and I wound up keeping the eccentric ones. That’s code for unsocial and unadoptable. After I got out of rescuing, people would show up on my stoop with an animals they could not get adopted begging me to take the garrulous beast. With time, patience, and love they all turned into more than pets, family members. The photos in this article are the animals that wound up living with us in our home over the years . Some have passed, but most are still with us.

Trouble. Can you guess how he got his name?

Trouble. Can you guess how he got his name?

 

I tell you all this to say, that it saddens me to know an issue I thought had been fought and won has lost serious ground. That is animal testing by cosmetics, fragrance, and soap companies, quite a few designer labels. Many of the prominent companies that touted how enlightened they were and loudly proclaimed they were not testing on animals, seem to no longer be enlightened and compassionate. You see, China requires testing on animals if the product is to be sold withing its borders. These companies see huge profits via millions of sales in China and our little furry friends have lost out. Even though everyone knows it is NOT NECESSARY to test on animals.

Mimzie, a feral cat with asthma I trapped who cared so lovingly for her kittens. She and her babies have been with us for four years.

Mimzie, a feral cat with asthma I trapped who cared so lovingly for her kittens. She and her babies have been with us for four years.

 

I won’t go into any of the gory details of animals testing. Trust me they are horrific. I don’t know how people can go into work every day in these demonic places.

Below are links where you can find products that are not tested on animals. A few of the easily obtained and/or major brands are: Abercrombe & Fitch,  Aubrey Organics, Aveda, Bath and Body Works, The Body Shop, Bon Ami, Bonne Bell, Burts Bees, Calgon, Caswell-Massey, Christine Valmy, Conair, Crabtree & Evelyn, Disney Fairies, Disney Princess, Dr. Bronner’s, Freeman’s, Georgette Klinger, Hello Kitty, Henri Bendel, Jessica McClintock, Kirk’s Natural Products, Kiss My Face, Lander, Liz Claiborne, Martha Stewart Clean, Martha Stewart Pets, Mary Kay, Merle Norman, Milani, Mitchum Deodorant, Nordstrom Cosmetics, Nu Skin, Paul Mitchell, Physicians Formula, Perscriptives, Queene Helene, Stanley Home Products, Strawberry Shortcake, Tom’s of Maine, Tussy, Weleda, Wet ‘n Wild.

Here are links for more companies….complete listings.

http://www.globalanimal.org/2010/12/06/companies-that-dont-test-on-animals-resource/

http://www.leapingbunny.org/shopsearch.php

This one has a complete listing you can go through by topic: makeup, hair, nails, body, skin. It even has cruelty free drug store finds. Go through the site carefully. It’s a fun site: http://www.mybeautybunny.com/

Meadow taking a winter's nap.

Meadow taking a winter’s nap.

 

 


Interview with Jay Mims on Christian Authors Writing in the General Market

The Gray Ghost InnI’ve been seeing a lot of discussion about Christian authors hoping to cross over into the general market…and also about Christians who are writing exclusively in the general market. So, naturally, I’m thrilled to have Jay Mims here today, as he’s a Christian who has been writing in the general market arena for quite a while. He’s the author of the cozy mystery, THE GRAY GHOST INN, which has been said to be shades of Agatha Christie without the solemnity. It also appears that Jay is a Dr. Who nut.

Nike: I understand that THE GRAY GHOST INN is not Christian fiction, yet you bring your Christian values to the story. Would it be fair to say there’s an underlying Christian sensibility at work?

Jay: I think it’s hard for me to write anything without my own personal values and sensibilities influencing the work. I’m blessed to have a wide variety of readership, including both my Mama and Grandma, and I’ve always had to pause and go “Are they going to enjoy reading this?” I think it’s this sensibility that has allowed me to develop my own personal writing style. It’s best described as family friendly, with sprinklings of snark and sarcasm, while at the same time tackling often very adult issues such as love, marriage and relationships.

 

Nike: I tend to use a lot of humor in my own writing and most often my quirky characters are Christians. My understanding is this THE GRAY GHOST INN gets a bit zany and is quite funny. Tell us about that. Would I be correct in thinking your characters do not necessarily have a religious or faith persuasion?

Jay: I would definitely warn readers, this is not a religious or “Christian fiction” book. And I should say, when I think “Christian fiction”, I think of the Amish Romance books written by Beverly Lewis. Which, I have a friend who LOVES those books, and I would also like to point out, she enjoys my books.  So, if you enjoy the work of Beverly Lewis, you MIGHT enjoy my books. My characters are human, flawed, and quite flirty. Dan Landis, the lead and a lovable P.I. tends to run off at the mouth and oozes personal charm. He also has a very cynical worldview, which I’m happy to report, changes over time thanks to the more positive influence of his partner Abbey. I think that would be the biggest appeal, and the closest connection for Christian readers, the developing relationship between Dan and Abbey. Abbey is actually a deeply spiritual character, and is also, in my opinion, the heart of the books. Abbey’s a PK, highly intelligent, and often a klutz. She doesn’t have Dan’s pop culture knowledge, but she also provides a very bright light into his life.

 

Nike: I’d like to know a bit about the relationship your PI Dan Landis has with his new partner? It seems she has a tendency to get him into trouble.

Jay: That’s a great question! Dan and Abbey have a fantastic relationship, and both play well off each other in terms of getting into trouble. I always consider Dan to be a trouble-magnet: In Five Santas, Dan keeps stumbling across bodies dressed in Santa Claus outfits, in Cult of Koo Kway he finds a body in his kitchen, and in Gray Ghost Inn Dan goes on vacation and behold, there’s a body in the library! At the same time, Abbey is just as much a trouble-magnet. But, most of her trouble comes from her tendency to take people at face value, her earnest and loving nature, and a general air of kindness. For me, that’s Abbey’s most important value as a character, because she brings the light of hope to Dan’s life. It’s always been my philosophy that, even in a murder mystery, readers still want hope.

 
Nike: The norm as far as romance, sensuality and language is very different in the general market. How do you handle that in your cozy novel?

Jay: My books do tend to have elements of love and romance in them, in as much as all life has subtext of love, romance and complex relationships. I have strived to make the friendship and relationship between Dan and Abbey to grow organically, to develop slowly, and to build things between them over several books instead of smashing them together. It’s important for readers to understand: These books are very G/PG. Murders take place exclusively off-screen, there is no nudity or sex, and almost no language. I won’t say there is never any profanity ever, because one of the most memorable conversations with my Mama happened as a result of The Five Santas. She called me up and said “I like the book, but I don’t appreciate you using foul language.” I paused and went “What language?” She replied, “You used the word bast***.” So, if you are offended by that word, you might not enjoy my books. Now, let me make something clear when it comes to sensuality. Dan is a very flirty individual, and that shows in his interactions with multiple characters. There is a very electric undercurrent of sensuality running between Dan and his friends, however, it doesn’t extend beyond the barest of innuendo. So, if you can watch a sitcom such as “Big Bang Theory” or even “Three’s Company”, then you’d definitely enjoy my books.

 

Dr. Who, Malek

Nike: Last but not least, would you call yourself a Dr. Who fanatic? And tell us about your roommate Steve, the passive-aggressive Dalek. Oh, and what’s a Dalek?

Jay: I absolutely love Doctor Who. I actually blogged (http://themimsey.blogspot.com/2014/03/trust-me-im-doctor-five-lessons-i.html) one time about how much influence that show has had on my life personally, but let me summarize for your readers: Doctor Who is a show about an alien, The Doctor, who believes that every problem has a solution and violence is never the answer. He travels through time and space in his blue phone box, The TARDIS, and always tries to help people. As Craig Ferguson (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9P4SxtphJ4) sang, it’s a show about how intellect and romance will always triumph over brute force and cynicism. He’s a force for good, and if you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend catching an episode or two. But be warned, just like potato chips, that thing is addictive. Daleks are the arch-nemesis of The Doctor. They’re a species that became so twisted and filled with hate that they wrapped themselves in a machine body and refuse to see the light of day. Their entire goal in life is to exterminate all life. EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE! They also make fantastic relaxation instructors: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJSQFzw1pEE
Steve, the passive-aggressive Dalek came from a running gag between myself and my friends, about the concept of “What if you had a Dalek for a roommate?” And inevitably, it had to be a passive-aggressive roommate, who would leave you notes like “YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN THE MILK! AGAIN!” or “THERE IS NO TOILET PAPER IN THIS HOUSE! THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!” Again, if you have never heard them talk, you have to first listen to how a Dalek speaks for those sentences to have their desired effect. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bua6g79Pf5o

Jay Mims

 

It’s obvious that Jay Mims is a very interesting fellow.

 

Purchase Links for THE GRAY GHOST INN:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1oH7jeM

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/Oscdvg

Smashwords: http://bit.ly/1emdg77

 


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